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Planning for family — to protect family assets — during the holiday season

As the holiday season approaches, the thoughts of many turn to family. It is a season of picking out gifts and planning celebrations for loved ones.

This time of year can also be a reminder to consider long-term planning for our loved ones, and to consider the gifts that can last not just a season, but for generations.

For all adults, but especially those lucky enough to have children, grandchildren, or a close extended family, the Family Protection Trust™ (FPT) can ensure that any assets left to loved ones are protected and tax implications are minimized.

An FPT allows the person creating it to design the distribution structure so that assets can continue to benefit not just children, but also grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In addition, the assets in the trust will not be taxed upon the death of a child, so the assets will not be dramatically reduced for each succeeding generation as they would be in some other inheritance plans.

Another benefit of the FPT is the protection it provides from unexpected attack by creditors. Even if family members are financially responsible, an unexpected accident, illness or divorce could leave traditionally willed assets at risk. Assets held in an FTP have a high level of protection from creditors. Best of all, some say, is protection of inherited assets in the event of a divorce. An FPT serves as a pre-nuptial agreement for kids and grandkids.

Your children's return home and visits from other family members may offer an ideal time to talk together about planning for the future. We hope this holiday season will be full of fun and happy moments for you and your family.

Computer-based messaging may help individuals with autism develop better relationships

The MIT publication Technology Review recently called attention to a new study that takes a novel approach to computer use for people with autism.

Traditionally, people with autism are thought to be loners who do not desire social connection. Many of the computer-based interventions for people with autism have sought to enhance communication skills that autistic individuals can use, in the words of one researcher, “in real life.”

But who is to say that computers are not part of real life? At least, that is the approach taken by the Dutch researchers who sought to study the computer-based communications of people with autism.

The results, according to the researchers, point to an idea that is gaining momentum -- that autistic individuals are interested in developing social relationships, and that the digital world may be one place where they are able to do that effectively and fulfillingly.

The researchers compared the computer-based social lives of a group of autistic adults with a group of adults who were otherwise similar but who did not have autism. Among other findings, the researchers reported that individuals in the autistic group were more likely to have a broader and more active group of friends in their digital world.

Some of the advantages that helped autistic individuals in the study to conduct more and better social interactions over the computer were the ability to respond in a more self-determined timeframe and the lack of additional information to process, such as body language.

The writers at the Technology Review asserted that the Dutch study may lack broad scientific validity because of the size and type of population samples used. Nevertheless, the authors applauded the direction of the research and call for additional studies based on the idea that people with autism may desire higher levels of social interaction and a greater variety of relationships than are currently served.